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EPIC News – November 2021

We’re headed into the last month of the year, which means this is the last EPIC Newsletter of 2021!
Keep your eyes peeled in December for our end-of-year message to round out 2021 and welcome 2022.


Latinx Families File Lawsuit Against Harbor Regional Center 

Western Center and Disability Rights California filed a lawsuit on behalf of a parent group in Torrance, CA to stop discrimination against Latinx families at Harbor Regional Center. The regional center is supposed to provide services to adults and children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The parent group, Padres Buscando el Cambio, is comprised of families whose needs have been ignored, and who’ve faced explicitly discriminatory comments from Harbor Regional Center staff.

As a recipient of state funds, Harbor Regional Center’s actions are not only unfair, they are also illegal. Our lawsuit seeks to compel the regional center and state to deliver services that meet the needs of everyone the center serves.


L.A. County Sued for Failing to Provide Timely Food Assistance

Western Center, Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County, and The Public Interest Law Project filed a lawsuit on behalf of two organizations fighting hunger in Los Angeles and one CalFresh (aka food stamp) recipient who had to wait over a month for CalFresh when he and his father had no money for food, despite a state mandate requiring such benefits be distributed in three days.

The lawsuit demands that the county comply with its legal obligation to grant expedited access to critical food benefits for those most in need.


Giving Season is Here!   

Tomorrow, November 30th, is Giving Tuesday – a global movement to amplify the power of radical generosity. There are so many ways to participate in Giving Tuesday, from random acts of kindness, to telling a friend how much you appreciate them, to making a donation to Western Center – the goal is a day filled with giving and generosity. How do you plan to participate?

If you were unable to join us for this year’s virtual Garden Party event, or just want to re-watch the festivities, you can find the recording of the program here. It’s also not too late to make a donation to support the event! Click here to make a donation.


Native American Heritage Month  

November is Native American Heritage Month, which according to the National Congress of American Indians “is a time to celebrate rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people. Heritage Month is also an opportune time to educate the general public about tribes, to raise a general awareness about the unique challenges Native people have faced both historically and in the present, and the ways in which tribal citizens have worked to conquer these challenges.”

The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution, and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum paid tribute to the traditions and ancestry of Native Americans with a collection of events and resources throughout November. PBS also offers a collection of film, documentaries, and programs to inform and celebrate the history, influence, and contributions of Native Americans.


EPIC News – October 2021


Western Center’s 2021 Legislative Wrap-Up

The California legislative season is over, and many Western Center priorities made it past the governor’s pen to become law. Our 2021 Legislative Wrap-Up includes Western Center’s collection of co-sponsored bills that were signed by the governor this year, as well as those we plan to bring back next year. Highlights include:

  • SB 62 – The Garment Worker Protection Act: Seeks to end wage theft in the California garment industry and ensure decent wages for California garment workers by holding California fashion brands to a higher standard of responsibility for the labor of garment workers.
  • SB 65 – The California Momnibus: an innovative and comprehensive piece of legislation that reimagines perinatal care in order to close the existing racial gaps in maternal and infant mortality and morbidity within the state.

Garden Party Success! 

A huge thank you to everyone who attended and supported this year’s Garden Party, our signature event highlighting Western Center’s ongoing efforts to fight poverty in California. Special thanks to this year’s incredible honorees and sponsors. If you were unable to attend Garden Party but still want to contribute, you can do so here. We need your help to reach our fundraising goal!

If you would like to see a snippet from Garden Party, check out our We Are Western Center video!


Meet Western Center’s Newest Team Members 

We are excited to introduce our newest team members, Lorraine López, Kathryn Evans, Abraham Zavala, and fellow Liv Williams! Find out more about Lorraine, Kathryn, Abraham, and Liv here.


Latina Equal Pay Day

October 21st was Latina Equal Pay Day, marking the number of days into 2021 Latinas had to work to catch up to what white, non-Hispanic men made last year. Overall, Latinas make 57 cents to a white man’s dollar, if they are mothers, that number goes down to 46 cents. Latina Equal Pay Day marks the final Equal Pay Day of 2021 — Latinas must work the most to get paid the least.

Latinas are the foundation of so many communities, and ultimately, this country and many others. In the conversations about what work is considered essential, Latinas are often mentioned, yet they are hardly compensated accordingly. That is why Western Center worked so hard as part of the coalition that got SB 62 signed into law this year to protect California’s garment workers – many of whom are Latinas making well below minimum wage despite their critical role upholding the fashion industry. It is our hope that SB 62 sets a standard not only for how Latinas are treated and paid in the garment industry, but also that it continues conversations about reforms needed in other sectors.


EPIC News – September 2021


Accessing Health Care in a Disaster

September is National Preparedness Month, so Western Center’s health team created a resource to help Californians access health care during a disaster, and condensed it into a blog post. Survivors of disaster have a right to health care when, where, and how they need it – unfortunately, they might have to fight for it. We recommend reading the full resource for detailed information about special rights and remedies available to survivors seeking prescription drugs, medical supplies and equipment, physician and specialist care, eligibility and coverage, health plan enrollment changes and more.


Awaiting the Governor’s Signature

The California Legislature is out of session – now we have until October 10th for the governor to sign our bills to make them law. We will provide a full roundup of our 2021 legislative efforts after things settle next month. In the meantime, here are a few priorities we are working hard to get the governor to sign:

  • AB 1020 – Health Care Debt and Fair Billing: Ensures Californians don’t need a lawyer to get financial assistance for hospital bills, and that more people are eligible for help with medical debt, which is the largest source of debt collection in the U.S. and disproportionately impacts people of color.
  • AB 1461 – Benefits for Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), and Asylum Applicants: To offer access to critical state and local services for non-citizen survivors of domestic violence and parental mistreatment, children who are abandoned or neglected, and people who fear persecution.
  • AB 1487 – Homelessness Prevention Fund: Helps California tenants access legal representation during eviction. Western Center policy advocate Tina Rosales wrote an op-ed explaining why AB 1487 is necessary, drawing on her experience working as a tenant attorney in Los Angeles.
  • SB 65 – California’s Momnibus Act: Implements interventions to address race-related pregnancy and birthing mortality disparities for parents and infants in California. Western Center policy advocate Jen Flory and coalition partner Nourbese Flint from Black Women for Wellness wrote an opinion in CalMatters outlining the need for SB 65.

Native American Day in California

September 24th was Native American Day in California, which is home to the country’s largest Native population, and second largest number of tribes. Native American Day honors those who first lived in what is now California, and this year Governor Newsom signed a series of bills aimed at advancing equity and providing support for Native communities across the state. As with all days, weeks, and months of acknowledgement, there is still much to be done not only to repair past and present injustices, but also to incorporate Native wisdom into plans for a more inclusive, sustainable future. The federal Native American Heritage Month is in November.


Latinx/ Hispanic Heritage Month

September 15th – October 15th is Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month, when we recognize the incredible contributions, talent, culture, spirit, and diversity of Latinx/ Hispanic communities in the United States and beyond. Diversity is one of the most dynamic parts about the Latinx/ Hispanic experience, which is reflected in ongoing conversations about how people choose to identify. This piece from NPR provides context for the development of the term “Hispanic” in the United States, the history of Hispanic Heritage Month, and the ongoing conversations around it. And this piece from Human Rights Campaign does an excellent job explaining the rise of “Latinx” as a term that is more inclusive of gender non-conforming people.

With Latinx/ Hispanic people making up almost 20 percent of the U.S. population and close to 40 percent of the population of California, there’s a lot to do to achieve equity and much-needed representation for Latinx/ Hispanic people and communities. In 2021, Senator Alex Padilla became the first Latino Senator from California, despite the state’s high Latinx population. Padilla may be the first, but he cannot be the last.


“Party” With Us! 

Invitations are out for our annual Garden Party fundraiser on Thursday, October 14th from 6-7pm PDT. We will honor five outstanding individuals whose work compliments Western Center’s mission, and there will be a special A-list musical performance just for attendees! It’s virtual, so join from anywhere. Get details and tickets here.


EPIC News – August 2021


Back to Session

The California Legislature is back from summer recess, which means it’s down to the wire for getting bills passed. The last day for each house to pass bills is September 10th. Check here for the status of Western Center bills as they reach the end of this year’s session.


Fighting to End Wage Theft in California’s Garment Industry

Earlier this month, to kick of the Legislature’s return, our partners at Garment Worker Center in Los Angeles loaded a bus at midnight, after a long day of work, to come to Sacramento to advocate for SB 62, The Garment Worker Protection Act, which seeks to end wage theft in the California garment industry and ensure decent wages. We are co-sponsoring the bill with the Garment Worker Center for the second year in a row because California is home to widespread workplace injustice. In fact, Los Angeles is understood to be the sweatshop capital of the United States.

Currently, many brands producing in California (some selling $78 t-shirts) pay garment workers as little at 11 cents per piece – leaving wages well below the state minimum. California can and should do better to ensure economic dignity for the thousands of workers in its substantial garment industry by passing SB 62.

Check out the video from our day in Sacramento with the Garment Worker Center.


Big Win in Los Angeles for COVID Tenant Protections

Last week, California’s Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the City of Los Angeles’ COVID tenant protections, which were challenged by The Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles. Western Center and our partners at Public Counsel, The Public Interest Law Project, and Susman Godfrey LLP represent two tenants’ rights organizations, ACCE Action and Strategic Action for a Just Economy (SAJE), who successfully sought to intervene in the lawsuit to defend the ordinances.

The recent Ninth Circuit decision is an important affirmation of the ongoing need for COVID protections to protect public health and keep people housed.

Western Center senior attorney Nisha Vyas explains more about the case here.


Women’s Equality Day & Women’s Equal Pay Day

August 26th was Women’s Equality Day, the day we remember the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which granted some women in the United States the right to vote. Of course, back in 1920 there were plenty of other systemic barriers to voting, especially for women of color. Too much of that struggle still exists today, which is why we must remember the fights that brought us the rights we have now, as well as the work that remains. To that end, we hope every California voter reading this will cast a ballot in the Gubernatorial Recall Election on or before September 14th.

Native Women’s Equal Pay Day is coming up on September 8th; according to the Equal Pay Today campaign, Native Women earn approximately 60 cents on the dollar of white, non-Hispanic men. September 8th is the day Native women must work into 2021 to make what white men made by the end of 2020. The Equal Pay Day movement includes days of acknowledgement throughout the year that represent the dates women must work into a new year to be paid what men were paid the previous year.


Garden Party: Mark Your Calendar! 

Western Center’s annual Garden Party fundraiser is Thursday, October 14th from 6-7pm PDT. We will highlight our work from the year and honor the amazing contributions of five stellar individuals. And since it’s virtual, you can join from wherever you are!

Get details and tickets here.


PRESS RELEASE: Western Center on Law & Poverty to Honor Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Brenda Shockley with Earl Johnson Equal Justice Award

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Virtual Garden Party event will honor Shockley’s lifetime of work for equal justice, and feature a conversation with Los Angeles Times Reporter Steve Lopez & Western Center’s new Executive Director, Crystal D. Crawford

Los Angeles, CA — On Thursday, October 8th, Western Center on Law & Poverty will present Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Brenda Shockley with its Earl Johnson Equal Justice Award at the organization’s 36th annual Garden Party. The award is named for retired California appellate court justice Earl Johnson, and honors leaders who have dedicated their career to providing Californians with equal justice under the law.

Garden Party is an event highlighting Western Center’s efforts in California courts, cities, counties, and in the Capitol on behalf of people experiencing poverty. Every year, Western Center honors three to five people or institutions who have made an extraordinary contribution, either through their partnership with Western Center or through their lifelong commitment to social justice.

Shockley exemplifies Western Center principles in many ways. She was named Deputy Mayor of Economic Opportunity for the City of Los Angeles in July of 2016, and appointed Chief Equity Officer in June, 2020. As a leader in the Mayor’s Office of Economic Opportunity, Shockley focuses on the prevention of homelessness and poverty through education, training, and employment that provides a living wage. Shockley’s work also addresses racial equity, workforce development, housing, and community development.

Shockley was President of Community Build for over 24 years before her appointments from Mayor Garcetti. Community Build was incorporated in 1992 in response to civil unrest, in an effort to revitalize South Los Angeles through human investment and commercial and economic development. Shockley oversaw the development of 16,000 square feet of commercial space in Leimert Park, which serves as a center for the African American community. Her work to revitalize South L.A. has led to more than $100 million of investment in education, employment and training programs. Western Center is proud to honor Deputy Mayor Shockley with the Earl Johnson Equal Justice Award for her persistent efforts to make Los Angeles a city that supports and uplifts its residents.

“Brenda is a jewel of South Los Angeles who has served the people of Los Angeles faithfully for decades,” said Crystal D. Crawford, Western Center’s new Executive Director. “She is a true freedom fighter and warrior for justice who has helped transform Los Angeles.”

Each year, Garden Party is attended by hundreds of attorneys, philanthropists, business people, legal services providers, community based partners, and many more. Though this year’s event is virtual due to the pandemic, Garden Party will again highlight contributions from individuals and organizations working on behalf of people experiencing poverty across the state.

In addition to Shockley, Garden Party honorees who will be recognized on Thursday, October 8th include Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, receiving the Max Gillam Pro Bono Award; Hope Nakamura of Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County, receiving the Mary Burdick Advocates Award; Delilah L. Clay of Manatt Phelps, for her work on the Crown Act, which prevents workplace discrimination based on hair; and Anthony Robles of Youth Justice Coalition, a lead advocate in the successful movement to end juvenile justice fees in California.

The event will also feature a conversation between award-winning author and Los Angeles Times reporter, Steve Lopez, and Western Center’s new Executive Director, Crystal D. Crawford.

More information on Garden Party — how to attend and get involved — can be found here.

Contact:

Suzanne Convery, Director of Development — sconvery[at]wclp.org

Courtney McKinney, Director of Communications — cmckinney[at]wclp.org

 

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